It’s a turf war.
The city and Feds may be headed toward a showdown over a parcel of land where the former plans to erect two towers filled partly with so-called affordable housing, and the latter suggested as a site for a new public pool promised after Gowanus’s beloved Double-D swimming hole closes as part of the ongoing scrub of the Gowanus Canal.
In January, Mayor DeBlasio tapped a pair of developers — Two Trees, and The Arker Companies — to construct twin 16-story towers with a combined 500 apartments, half of which will be below-market-rate, on top of a New York City Housing Authority–owned parking lot on Third Avenue at Boerum Hill’s public Wyckoff Gardens complex.
But Environmental Protection Agency bigwigs overseeing the fetid canal’s cleanup identified the same plot as a site for the temporary pool they swore to build for Gowanusaurs after breaking the news that they will have to drain and demolish the Double-D inside Thomas Greene Playground in order to excavate and cleanse toxins from the ground beneath the park as part of the project, according to the man leading it.
“We saw open space next to Wyckoff Gardens, so we thought maybe instead of bringing the community to the pool, we’d bring the pool to the community,” Environmental Protection Agency project manager Christos Tsiamis told attendees of a June 26 Gowanus Community Advisory Group meeting.
Tsiamis sent colleagues to scour the neighborhood for possible swimming hole sites years ago, he said, and they came back with few options that included the Wyckoff Gardens land, a plot at the nearby public Gowanus Houses, and a vacant parcel at 223 Nevins St. owned by utility company Con Edison, which has since told the Feds it has its own plans for the lot and pulled it off the table, according to Tsiamis and a company rep.
“We were thinking of this three years ago,” said Tsiamis.
The temporary pool will stand for as long as it takes gas company National Grid — the area polluter paying for it — to dig up and cleanse the dirt beneath Thomas Greene Playground and replace the Double–D when that work is complete.
The Feds originally wanted to stick one of two massive sewage tanks required for their canal cleanup in the Double-D’s grave, but Gowanusaurs blasted the idea because it would leave youngsters without their beloved swimming hole for the entire length of the project and eliminate parkland from the playground, so Council recently okayed the use of eminent domain for local officials to seize privately owned land along Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory for the cisterns instead.
Environmental Protection Agency brass could not say when the temporary pool will be built, but a leader of the local Gowanus Canal Conservancy estimated it could arrive in 2021, and stay open through 2027.
Some residents questioned how the Feds could use the Wyckoff Gardens land for the temporary pool following news of the semi-affordable towers construction — which could begin as soon as next year, according to a Nycha spokeswoman, if the development is approved via the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
“The parking lot where the Wyckoff Gardens is was given up to developers for housing. It’s not an option anymore,” local Linda Mariano said during the meeting.
Tsiamis explained the idea is still in early stages, but an attorney for the federal agency said there should be room, and time, to build one or more short-term swimming holes and the high-rises.
“All I’ll say is that because there’s space for developers to put in housing, there seems to be some extra space that you could use for the people there because that space is fungible,” said Brian Carr, who referenced Brooklyn Bridge Park’s temporary Pop-Up Pool as an example of the facility National Grid is expected to provide.
The Feds hope to use city-owned land, like the property at Wyckoff Gardens — which has about seven football fields–worth of underutilized space, according to a 2015 Politico report — so National Grid won’t have to dole out even more cash to lease space for the temporary pool, Carr said.
Nycha, however, has yet to receive any proposals for a pool at the site, according to a rep. And a spokeswoman for the Department of Parks and Recreation — which oversees Thomas Greene Park and the Double-D — said the agency supports a short-term swimming hole, but plans for one are not finalized.